This is a submission by Living Streets Edinburgh Group, which aims to promote walking as a safe, enjoyable and easy way of getting around Edinburgh.
It is noted that you ask for comments in respect of 5 year and 30 year time horizons. In the case of transport infrastructure this can be succinctly answered. Within 5 years we need to have changed our whole approach to the way we move and in 30 years time we will be looking back wondering why we ever did it any other way.
Since the advent of statutory land use planning, decisions on where we live and work and how we move around have all been predicated on the use of private motor vehicles. We have also accepted that the bulk of what we produce and consume should move by road and we have planned accordingly.
There is now an acceptance that this approach has created poor places to the detriment of people’s physical and mental well-being, and ultimately to the economy.
Scottish Government has taken some steps in policy to redress the imbalance:
- Scottish Planning Policy Para 273 – “The spatial strategies set out in plans should support development in locations that allow walkable access to local amenities and are also accessible by cycling and public transport. Plans should identify active travel networks and promote opportunities for travel by more sustainable modes in the following order of priority: walking, cycling, public transport, cars. The aim is to promote development which maximises the extent to which its travel demands are met first through walking, then cycling, then public transport and finally through use of private cars. Plans should facilitate integration between transport modes.”
- Creating Places 4.7 – “We will advocate the delivery of places that prioritise pedestrians and encourage activity and healthy lifestyles.”
Although this has now been Scottish Government policy for a few years, it has not been meaningfully reflected in local planning policy and decisions. Land use allocations continue to be made on a basis that accepts private car use as a necessity and the dominant element in the provision of transport infrastructure.
Too often the infrastructure to allow people the realistic option of walking is not provided. This has to change and development must be located where walking is the most attractive choice. This requires all necessary infrastructure to be in place at the outset including a network of safe off-road footpaths along with accessible, frequent and affordable public transport. Roads should no longer dominate and developments should be increasingly car free with no need for parking other than than as required for disabled/servicing. This will require culture change as well as a mixture of public investment and contributions from developers with any necessary adjustment to land values. The UK, including Scotland, has failed on this score whilst in many other European countries it has long been part and parcel of the way they plan and invest.
One issue that receives insufficient attention, and should be taken into account as part of this review, is the on-going management and maintenance of infrastructure once it is in place. There is a need for ring-fenced resources to be available. Poorly maintained paths/pavements, crossings etc. detract from the quality of place and make them less desirable to use.
It is now rare that a week goes by without the publication of a report on air quality in urban areas and what it’s doing to us, especially our children. This cannot be ignored any longer and when we include all of the other health benefits, it is clear that we urgently need to change the way we plan the places where we live and work from one led by private cars to one focused on people and walking. It makes sense on so many levels and there is a real time imperative, so your 5 year time horizon is the one that must be met.
If the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland wants to make one change in infrastructure provision that changes people’s lives for the better, please ensure walking is properly prioritised in the development process in line with Scottish Government policy.